Did you know that work is important to your mental health? The recent celebration of Labor Day got me thinking about the value of work. I’m not only referring to a paid job. What I mean is that each of us needs to have a purpose (or more than one purpose) that we work toward, as this provides meaning in our lives.
Sometimes these purposes are referred to as vocations, and they can include the profession for which you are paid, keeping house, parenting, volunteering, caregiving…the list goes on and on.
This brings to mind the current buzzword “work-life balance.” This is actually a vitally important concept, especially if you consider the many parts of your life that include work. The thing to remember is that balance is dynamic.
Remember when you used to walk along the curb as a kid? Were you perfectly still side-to-side? No, you leaned a little each way to keep your balance. The same is true as we make efforts to balance the areas of health: physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual. We must also consider work time, family time, relaxation time, personal time, fun, financial planning, and so on. Every one of these areas won’t get equal treatment every day or even every week–that’s an impossible goal.
You will have to lean one way or another, depending on many variables, to achieve a healthy balance at any given time.
Don’t let this idea stress you out–it’s just a description of the process, and it can actually free you to do things as they need to be done, giving more or less attention to particular areas.
Let’s talk a bit more about having a purpose for our work. This involves some sort of vision or end game, having a goal in mind. Without such a vision our motivation can die because we lose sight of why we’re putting forth such effort.
Take a minute to think about the various “hats” people wear. What might be the end goal in each case? In the workplace, it could be to earn an income and work with excellence. With parenting, the idea is to raise healthy and relatively well-adjusted children. Volunteer work can provide a sense of helping others and giving back, while keeping house might create a calming, welcoming atmosphere for those living there.
Now it’s your turn. What vocations do you have? Why do you have each of them? What is your purpose in each case? Knowing the reason(s) you do what you do contributes to your mental health by keeping you grounded in a larger purpose.
If any of these areas is causing you stress and anxiety, maybe it’s time to take a look at the balance to see if some adjustment might be in order.
If I can be of help in that process, you can contact me at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.
I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor